I wanted to get a new bike since the beginning of the summer. My old one is a 7-8 year old aluminum tank from Bikes Direct that my dad bought me when he decided I should get into cycling. It served me well, but I never put too many miles on it because I went by the way of long-distance running. Fast forward 5 or so years, and I'm no longer really competing for running. I started riding my bike a bit more to mix it up, do some cross training, and because it was a ton of fun. So naturally, I wanted a new bike.
I'm not going to be competing on this bike, first of all. I'm doing a metric century with my dad in the fall just for fun, and all my rides are pretty casual. I favor comfort and functionality over speed, so I decided early on in my search that I wanted a steel frame. I toyed with the idea of buying a Soma or other quality steel frameset, buying my roommate's new-but-used 5800 groupset and a the other few parts I needed and build my own bike, but I realized that that would be way too much to handle for me. When I saw that Bikes Direct had a steel frame with 5800 shifters and derailleurs, along with other not-too-shabby components for $900. I decided to swallow my pride and buy it. This really is an unbeatable deal. And I'll tell ya what, those Taiwanese sure know how to build a bike.
I'm 5'8", 130 pounds. Not exactly the biggest guy. I bought a 51cm frame because 1) I knew I wanted a shorter top tube for a more upright, comfortable position and 2) that's what the Bikes Direct size guide said I should buy. I have to say that I definitely could have bought the next size up. I think the frame runs a little small, but after a few rides I like it. It's much more compact that my old bike, which just offers a different experience. It naturally sort of pushes me into a lower position, which I'm beginning to like. So I'll call the sizing issue a wash.
The only issue with the shipping was that since the fork was turned around, two little points on the back rubbed on something and some of the paint is scratched away. I'll just put some resin over it to protect it. It's not like it's a very noticeable spot.
CgAAG1XF_BSERl0vAAAAANqMAs8998.jpg The scratches on the back of the fork.
The wheels were aligned and tensioned properly right out of the box. I was surprised. I'll see how the break-in process treats them, but they're still straight after 70 miles. The Shimano RS11 wheels look and feel great as well.
The saddle is crap. I got a new saddle after my second ride. Don't bother with these "Velo" brand saddles that come on BD bikes.
The welds look solid. No issues on the frame. One nice touch is that they put a matte cover over the chain-side chainstay to keep the paint fresh. Kudos to them for it.
The brakes are Tektro, and they're not the best. But they work, which is what matters. I may buy my roommate's 5800 brakes off of him for cheap, but I'm not worried about the Tektros.
The bars, stem, and seatpost are all just non-descript aluminum. They feel fine and don't weigh too much. I might get a new stem down the line simply to elongate my position, but the quality seems fair.
CgAAG1XF_BSEa3EjAAAAAOtrt0g634.jpg Nothing special about the stem & bars...
The chainwheel is a compact (50/34) FSA Gossamer, which some people apparently don't like. I have no issues with it. The cassette is a 12-32 I believe. I haven't checked, but there's a big frickin gear on the back. I like having it, because I like to spin up hills.
CgAAHFXF_JuEO6PsAAAAAN-Kvek335.jpgCgAAG1XF_BSEWbE6AAAAAF1IElo030 (1).jpg Dagwire cable housings, as well.
The front and rear derailleurs both had to be calibrated, tensioned, and have the upper and lower limits set. Before I touched anything, the rear derailleur couldn't even go to the biggest cog. I actually spent a fair amount of time getting everything right with them because it was my first time. My roommate helped me out and they shift beautifully. I had the bargain Shimano STI gruppo from 7 years ago on my old bike, so the 105 derailleurs and shifters are absolutely amazing to me.
I weighed it sans water bottle and saddle bag (I didn't take my pump off because I was too lazy) and it's a hair under the 22 lb mark.
Like I said before, I could have bought the next bigger size, but I'm growing to like having a smaller bike. It pushes me into the drops more and I like it. I couldn't do that as easily on my old bike because the top tube was so long. It feels agile and smooth, but does get a little twitchy for what I'm used to when going down big hills.
My second ride on it I climbed a category 4 mountain (according to Strava) and I was able to eat it up. For someone who has a 17 lb carbon climbing bike, this would feel like a tank but I loved it. Especially with the compact crank and big cog in the back. I like to spin, so it worked well. I definitely liked having the smaller frame to save on weight at this point.
The frame is great. It flexes in all the right ways and is stiff in all the right ways. It feels like just a no-nonsense, solid steel frame. But it's still fairly light. The main frame is Reynolds 520 and the rear triangle is something else (likely just standard hi-tensile carbon steel). The fork is carbon. Again, not the best stuff but it's light and feels good. It soaks up the road rattle well.
The bottom line
I know I kind of rambled, but I tried to keep it organized. The bottom line is that if you want a solid steel frame bike you won't be disappointed. It has a sporty, slightly more aggressive geometry so you can use it for faster rides. I'm using it for casual road riding for now, but I could definitely see this being able to handle touring cross-country or being a great commuter as well. It's possible to put on fenders and a rear rack if you choose to do that. Plus, at $900 this is one of the best deals you can find. It's hard to find a steel frame with 105s for less than around $1300. Just make sure you know how to set up derailleurs or take it to a LBS to set it up for you. And ditch the stock saddle.
Sorry for the wall of text.